The old capital of Japan!

Kinkakuji (金閣寺) or the Golden Temple
Kinkakuji (金閣寺) or the Golden Temple

Sunrise and on the move again. TO KYOTO!

Shinkansen is an experience not to be missed 🙂 Few hours journey by train from Tokyo and you’re there, in Kyoto.
Kyoto Station is AMAZINGLY big! It’s Japan’s second-largest station building and is one of the country’s largest buildings, incorporating a shopping mall, hotel, movie theater, Isetan department store, and several local government facilities under one 15-story roof.

In Kyoto I stopped at K’s House and that place is still one of the best hostels I have been so far. It has a spacious bar area, at the entrance you have a locker where you leave your shoes  and take room slippers (they have two big baskets with slippers of different sizes, therefore you can choose a pair that is right for you). The staff is very welcoming and friendly and if it happens not to have a plan or you have a very limited time in Kyoto, they’ll make sure to point some of the must see and some places that will be interesting for you to experience and try.

Roof decorating elements at the Imperial Palace
Roof decorating elements at the Imperial Palace

I dropped my luggage here and went out to explore the city! At 8pm I had an appointment with a new friend I made during my trip to Kyoto. He invited me to a dinner with his friends at one of the izakaya (居酒屋 ) nearby Kyoto Tower.
Good decision to go there. I have met one of my Japanese friends and we’re talking even today!

Izakaya is a traditional Japanese restaurant, with tatami, low tables and cushions on the floor. You eat sitting on the floor….awesome experience!
Some of izakaya have a slightly higher tables and you can put your legs under the table. PLEASE DO NOT SPREAD your legs, it’s considered rude!!! For more information about dinning etiquette in Japan, please go here.

Kyoto Train Staition
Kyoto Train Staition

If you want to visit Kyoto you should AVOID national holidays and periods when high-school students are in holidays, otherwise most of the touristic attractions will be crowded with students and the long lines will “eat” your time easily.
Some of the places need booking in advance, therefore check for the availability and buy tickets online.

If you don’t want to rush and discover this city at an easy pace you’ll need to reserve about 1 week if not more only for Kyoto and its surroundings. Being the old capital of Japan and the cultural capital of Japan this city and nearby towns host so many things to see, that it’s impossible ( physically) to go to all in a shorter time. Some of the important places to be seen are far one from another and this requires extra time to reach. Renting bikes is a real deal, therefore go for it, and most of the hostels will have such a service.

Red Temple Gate - Kiyomizu Dera Temple
Red Temple Gate – Kiyomizu Dera Temple

When in Kyoto don’t forget about Geisha culture and streets! During the day is just a time spent for nothing if you decided to go for geisha hunting, because those aren’t the real ones 😀 I have went to see geisha at 2am! Yes, you read it 2am! I have seen girls of a rare beauty and they don’t like to be  photographed, so you literally have to hunt them 😀 But again, don’t forget about good manners and respect their privacy and personality. One thing will be for sure, you’ll remember the Hollywoodian movie “Memoirs of Geisha” 🙂 They walk in pairs with their teacher and are disappearing in a second if they spot your camera on them!

Besides good food, geisha street, UNESCO temples, the imperial palace and the bamboo forest what can you do more?

And this more is the public bath! Keep in mind that not all the public baths are open for foreigners, and some won’t accept you if you have tattoos, especially big ones or the ones that somehow remind of the Jakuza type and style – dragons! Some public baths are common for men and women, therefore you’ll share the pool with other visitors, but if you want to have some privacy or you’re traveling with your partner or family you should look for a bath that can offer a private bath for one family only. These baths (family baths) are more expensive than the shared ones.
One general rule before going to any bath or onsen, is to take a shower and scrub your whole body, wash your hair and then move to the pool.
Is considered rude to go directly to the pool without taking shower first! For that you’ll be provided with towels and shower gel, body scrub and shampoo, therefore there’s no excuse not to do it!

High school students at Kinkakuji
High school students at Kinkakuji

If you have done it all, and still have time then just enjoy walking on the streets, along Kamo river that splits Kyoto in two or go to Kabuki! Kabuki (歌舞伎) is translated as : sing (歌),dance (舞), and skill (伎). Kabuki is therefore “the art of singing and dancing”. If this sounds interesting to you then you should check here for more information about theaters that offer such shows, schedules and ticket prices.

There are some other activities available, such as kanji writing courses, Japanese language courses, cooking classes, etc

Where to stop overnight?

Kyoto being a very touristic place has a wide range of accommodation, from 5*hotels to hostels, guesthouses and even temple stay.
For those who would love to try to stay in a temple, this is a possibility as well. There you can mediate and feel on your own skin how is to be a Buddhist monk.

Kiyomizu Dera Temple
Kiyomizu Dera Temple

I have mentioned it above that I stayed in K’s house and I loved every single moment spent there! It was one of my best experiences in a hostel, so far! I recommend it for everyone, regardless of their age or income!
I even met a friend that used to study at the same University with me and I knew most of her colleagues, but not her 😀 One of the guests that wasn’t very young came from Taiwan and remember that he was very good at playing guitar, he played and sung for us. Even some of the hostel staff joined us in the living room and we had great long nights with instant noodles and good songs 🙂

I hope you enjoyed reading this short review about Kyoto! I let pictures talk 🙂

Sake ... or the raw version of it :)
Sake … or the raw version of it 🙂

For more information about events, accommodation, dining and temples and shrines, visit these pages:

In my next post about Japan I will talk about some of the places I have been around Kyoto 😉

Travel safe and wise! 


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